Good day, dear readers.
If you haven’t read my last blog post, #MoreThanVisibility, go read that first, so this will make sense. Thanks!
I could not have anticipated the reaction to my TDOV photo collage campaign or this blog post. I was blown away by all of you, and I am so grateful for your support.
I had strangers messaging me on Facebook and Instagram to talk about how at home they felt within the collages or the blog post. I had one trans guy tell me that he had always felt excluded from trans representation because he doesn’t fit the cis-normative, hypermasculine archetype that we see in media (sadly, trans-centered media is equally as guilty of this trend as mainstream media). I had cisgender friends on Facebook sharing my post with their other friends, and trans friends who were tagging friends and sharing in groups.
I sincerely hope that the subjects of my last post somehow heard about it and read it. My comments and thoughts don’t exist in a vacuum and I want them to know how many people feel the same way I do about their impact on the community.
And then something magical happened. The Queen herself, Laverne Cox regrammed three of my TDOV collages. Before I knew it, my phone blew up. People responded. The three collages together earned 46,800 likes. 46,800. You can see the rest of my collages that did not get regrammed here.
The best thing about TDOV was seeing my friends, the ones in the collages, the ones that represent the true diversity within our community out there on Laverne Cox’s platform. To read the excited comments of friends who saw their friends on her Instagram feed. To see a whole lot of people smiling around them, to see them feeling validated. Validated by a mainstream media star for being their unique, beautiful selves. I cried a little.
But the reaction from the community has not only been positive. Jake Graf continues to delete comments on his photo calling out the lack of diversity. I’m posting a photo here of some of the comments that followed mine, in case they also get deleted. You read it here first– we are being silenced.
However, there are some people who feel like voicing opposition to others within the community on the issue of inclusion and diversity is trans-on-trans shaming. There are people who think that we should celebrate the successes of those cisnormative model types and just also find some way to raise ourselves up. They think that having the conversation about privilege and representation takes away from our community being a “safe space.”
I’ll start with the last point first– I am not sure that those who have been excluded from representation (TPOC, fem trans men, masculine trans women, non cisnormative, disabled, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the list goes on…) ever felt like the community was a “safe space” for them. So, if calling out privilege and power makes those within the privileged group uncomfortable, I think its worth it if we heal some of the hurt for the rest of the community overall. I offer my privilege up for this cause, and I don’t get why it’s so hard for other people to do the same.
Second, I think playing the “why can’t we all just get along” card is dangerous. No, those who are not in the position of privilege should not stop speaking for the “greater good” or “unity” of the movement. We fell for that argument when it came to gay/lesbian rights. From the very beginning of the movement toward marriage equality, which lasted decades, there were those who said that we should focus on securing basic human rights, like employment security, housing, and decriminalization first. But, the privileged within the community (read: moneyed white cisgender men) focused on marriage, and marriage was almost the only thing we worked on for 20 years. And you know what? You can now get married in all 50 states, but you can still get evicted or fired for being gay in over 20 states.
So no, I don’t buy the “wait until we are more accepted and then we can branch out and show our true spectrum” narrative at all. Once we set a precedent, it’s very hard to change. Hell, our culture generally has accepted the idea that the types of folks that are on magazine covers are an irrational and very unrealistic image of beauty, but they still cater to that norm. Why in the hell would transgender people want to play into the same problems? We are starting from scratch– let’s create a narrative that is real and good from the very beginning, shall we?
Trans Day of Visibility should not be about each individual trans person posting a selfie and saying “I’m trans.” Trans Day of Visibility should be a celebration of the trans community– to bring to social media those who don’t usually get the spotlight. To show the cisgender world how unique we all are– we can’t be classified, stereotyped, or put into a box. Trans isn’t just something that you should be able to identify based on some cookie-cutter idea of what trans looks like. The people who appear in the mainstream media don’t need as much of the protection that visibility and awareness brings, but for the rest of us, it could actually help save our lives.
Be excellent to yourselves, and each other.